Monday, August 29, 2016

DIY centerpiece (that costs less than a bouquet of flowers)

 I don't know about you, but our dining table seems to be the most used space and hub of our home this time of year.  The hurried fall nights, filled with after school activities, often bring friends and family over for a simple meal.  Our table is long and comfortably seats ten but I'm often stumped for a pretty centerpiece that doesn't take up too much of the middle, which is a bit narrow.  And I'll be honest, I find myself liking useless centerpieces less and less in life. Though things piled high on plates and into the center can look pretty, if it has to get moved, shifted or set aside in order to fill a plate, it drives me crazy. (I look back at some of the more elaborate ways I've styled tabletops in my past and shake my head. I've learned, that a simple table is a far more comfortable table.  I often find myself setting the table when the dinner is nearly ready and guests are enjoying conversation and drinks around the kitchen while last minute prep is in the works. The act of setting a table while chatting with your guests, or even putting them to work laying silverware along side you, sets the entire crowd at ease, as though they are a part of the evening, rather than a bystander.)

Mostly, I love putting actual food into the center of a table and making that the focus and centerpiece. However, there is something dreamy and inviting about candles this time of year, isn't there?  I often light them while I'm cooking dinner and before I know it, my people are hovering, anticipating something special, even on a weekday night.  I love that, because with teens in sports and activities, dinner can be very hit-or-miss!  (As an aside, I do believe in lighting your candles regularly! I often work in homes where a candle sits, dusty with non-use, and a pristine wick bends sideways, begging for a purpose. I itch to light and enjoy it!)

I have a bit of a love affair with tapers.  (I don't like most taper candle holders though because they seem sort of lonely unless you fill the spaces around them with spectacular flowers and such... and then we've crossed that line into a fussy centerpiece and I'm out... unless it's a special occasion.)  I've seen drilled out wood chunks, holding votives or tapers other places, and always appreciated the simplicity.  I asked my husband to help me make this and he loves me so much he let me take some photos and share his details and measuring with you so that you can make one without dealing with all of the math.  I love the look of raw wood, but my tabletop is sealed barn wood so I went with a whitewash (an equal mix of white craft paint and water, brushed on in several coats.)  Obviously, you could make yours and not do a thing to it... that would have been my first choice if my table was white!

In the end, you'll end with 16 candle holes in a 3 foot chunk of wood. (please see my note beside the drill bit, below) The cost for this project is minimal which is the best part. This entire project cost me less than a grocery store bouquet of flowers.  I had the paint and drill bit on hand.  I did have some candles on hand, but I purchased another box. I even got my board cut for free, plus 70% off at Home Depot, because I chose a bad board...or at least they said it was. It looked fine to me but for around $3, I didn't argue! (It had some sap and knots but I left that cut piece with them and took the good end.)

Here's what you'll need:
*Drill bit 3/4" (*Note- we tried this size bit ahead of time on scrap wood and tried putting in my tapers.  It was a tight fit that required me to kind of screw the taper in, shaving the bottom wax out a bit as I pushed down, and I liked how secure that felt but you may want to use a slightly larger bit so feel free to experiment if you like.)
*3 feet long 4x6 untreated wood plank
*felt adhesive pads for the underside
*taper candles
*stain, paint or finish of your choice

Here's how you'll create this:

Mark 2 straight lines down the board in pencil, 1 3/4" from the side edges, for candle hole rows.  You'll be staggering each drilled hole on those lines.
Begin measuring to make your drill marks.  One line of marks will start 6" from end, with marks every 4" finishing with its final mark 2" from end. The other line of marks will start 4" from end with marks every 4", finishing 4" from that end, so you have created a staggered effect. See above photo. 

Drill down about an inch deep, keeping the drill straight so you don't end up with leaning candles.

Brush off sawdust and lightly sand rough edges. (I didn't sand out the drilled holes, but you certainly could do that.  At this point, you might also want to erase any pencil lines left on the wood.

Paint, stain or distress any way you desire.

Adhere some felt pads to the underside, to protect your tabletop surface, then screw each taper into the holes, gently pushing down to make a tight and secure fit.  (Wax will pool around the bottom as you do this, so I used a paper towel to brush away the excess wax away.) 

And that's it!  The rustic wood pairs beautifully with the tapers, giving dinner a special flair and we've already lit ours several times over the weekend!  (This would look amazing on a large mantle or console table (perhaps only a single row of tapers... and making sure you have enough room to keep it safe of course!) or during the holiday season, with greenery and oranges tucked around the bottom.)

I hope you enjoyed this DIY and let me know if you've got any questions in comments and I'll do my best to answer them. 
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Thursday, August 25, 2016

On again.

How are you all doing?  We just got everyone back in school (can you even believe these photos??) so I had time to sit and blog again.  I have a freshman and an 8th grader.  My heart bursts. I love them so.  They are such quality people.

Last night, I wandered around in my garden, with my real camera, thinking about returning to things we love. Why is it that we often let life crowd out the things that make our hearts race with joy? I'd missed my camera so much and it had been so long since I had used it creatively, that I had nearly forgotten how to use it!  But it got me thinking about the summer brainstorming I did about my priorities and such.  I definitely don't want to put joy-bringers on a back burner.  Blogging and taking photos are huge joy-bringers to me.  (I still have no idea about the technical side of the switch over with the new name I'm longing to implement. The girl who designed this blog hasn't answered one of the half-dozen emails I sent in the past year, and that's incredibly frustrating when you want to make changes RIGHT NOW! (ha!)  Another girl I approached last spring was phasing out and recommended me to someone taking her place but I have not heard anything from her. So if anyone knows someone really good who could help me make blog changes (affordably) I'd love to know!)

Anyway, I spent some quality time gathering some ideas I want to blog about this fall, since I've been such an infrequent visitor here. Sometimes I think the creativity in me is dead, but then I have to force myself to stop jotting down ideas when I hit about the 20th topic mark so apparently not.  Which means that I've got a great fall lineup (hopefully you agree) of things that have been helpful, encouraging, inspiring and practical, to me in this season. Some topics may have been glossed over or slightly discussed here before if you're a long time visitor, but I'd like to think that as time passes, there is always something delightful that can be added to just about any subject.

Like making teenage-life dinner meals that are easy, delicious and quick.  I mean, we could revisit that topic constantly, yes?  I'm also really feeling the urge to cover the topic of wellness and what I'm finding it to mean in all it's many components.  (Many of you know that my sweet daddy has Alzheimer's and we're coping as best we can.  I hate it but I trust God and I find myself daily delighting in the fact that God choose this amazing man to be MY daddy and I love that I have him in my life. Through this, my brother and I have realized that we have it on both parent sides, as all the women in my mother's family died from Dementia.  It's sobering.  And frightening.  But it's got me pushing forward toward personal goals of living life full.)

Which is another topic I'm dying to chew on with you.  Fullness, satisfying, being filled, overflowing... these words seem to get thrown around the bible all over and sit on the tongue like a morsel of delicious chocolate.  Believing that God is for you, but also that He longs to fill you to overflowing, leading you down a path that is satisfying, and planning a life that is full... well, I'm all in when this topic comes up and I've been digging in and rolling around in it so I've got plenty to say about it at some point.  

We'll also throw in some practical things like getting your garage organized because seriously... can it happen?  Yes.  I've got some helpful tips and thoughts to get you going.  I can't wait to share a DIY (or two) as you throw open your doors and begin fall hosting, holidays and entertaining. (Always a favorite topic around here, and I've got some links so some really wonderful products that I'm digging!) I would love to write more frequent, small posts even on topics such as choosing and implementing devotional times with kids, morning routines, coffee bar essentials, hair care, favorite products, supper club planning, favorite escape shows and books I'm reading, to name a few.

By all means, if you can think of a topic you're dying to discuss or read about, email me and I'll see what I can do. Thank you for being along on this ride with me.  Sure glad I get to do life with y'all....

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PS this cute print has been newly added to my shop, just in time for FALL decorating! 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Living small

I think it's really easy to get trapped in excessive living and not even know you need to be rescued.  And I don't mean the extravagance of many vacations to exotic locations and lavish name brand shopping sprees and a pile of money to reassure you for the future... though it could mean that. And don't misunderstand me, this isn't the same as saving for the future and being wise and being trusted with small things so that you're given more. What I mean, is more personal, because excessive living can mean whatever it means for you... whatever keeps you from having big, solitary faith because you've only got Jesus as your backup plan.  I like to call that living small. It isn't small at all, when Jesus is your only backup plan.  I simply call it that, because it starts with the small answers.  The ones that help you trust for the bigger ones on the horizon.  The tiny ones, that begin as seeds and grow strong, unshakable trust trees in your realm, that turn into faith forests over a lifetime.

Yesterday, I had a full day of living small moments.  As I reflected on them today, I realized that I'd gotten so trapped in my own kind of excessive living, that it had been years since I'd gotten the joy of experiencing, living small.  I sent an excited afternoon text message to my husband telling him how good God was in case he didn't know.  And now I'm going to tell you.

Yesterday, I had lost a precious bracelet (precious because it was a present from Adrain) at work and thought I'd never find it again, only to pray and locate it five minutes later, in my purse.  It had fallen off when I put my keys in as I arrived at work.  Small, yet huge because it reminded me that GOD CARES ABOUT WHAT CONCERNS US. I'm getting personal here but I feel compelled to share specifics. I have been really struggling with making the grocery budget ends meet, which I'm normally pretty good at. We have hosted (and by that, I mean fed) dozens of gatherings of loved ones over the summer.  We absolutely delight in doing this, but it's expensive.  We are also raising teens who eat constantly and Adrain and I are both working hard to loose some weight by extremely clean eating, and we're both over the age of 40, which is no small task, so it all adds up. 

I can't even tell you the nightmares I have had about being trapped in a grocery store with $30 and an overflowing cart, trying to decide what I should and shouldn't buy.  It's silly, but apparently it was stressing me out to the extreme since I was dreaming about it. On Wednesday, I spent some time jotting down a healthy menu for next week along with a grocery list. In the process, I had decided that even though my razor was making a painful rash on my legs, I could go a couple more weeks before replacing it to conserve. (I could have worked it in someplace, but razors are weirdly expensive (why?) and I decided to wait and use that $14 elsewhere.) I was trying to keep it all down under $100 for the week but I was cutting things from the list left and right. I hadn't prayed for it so much as worried over it a bit, but when I checked the mail, there was an unexpected packet of coupons with a grocery store rebate coupon.  The rebate totaled $43 and there were several coupons for things on my list which almost never happens.  Also. In a separate promotion mailer, there was a coupon for a free razor.  The kind I like to use.  Completely free.  (I know, right?) And that reminded me that GOD CARES TO PROVIDE FOR OUR NEEDS AND KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE EVEN WHEN WE WORRY OVER THEM, RATHER THAN TAKING THEM TO HIM IN PRAYER. (When I purchased our $120 of groceries today, I only ended up spending $63.) 

A few days ago, I was trying to figure out what to wear to a wedding this coming weekend.  I wanted to wear a certain dress, but it's going to be outside and when you're in heels in grass it's annoying. I tried explaining all of this to Adrain and I got a blank look, but tell me you get this? I do realize that this is not life shattering compared to the world's problems, but I wistfully wished I owned a pair of black strappy sandals with a wedge heel.  I knew that to find a quality pair that was comfortable and worked with the style of dress, I'd never get the green light after that sweetly blank husband look.  I prayed about it and popped into a consignment store nearby just on the chance...  Sitting on a shelf, was the cutest pair of strappy wedge heeled sandals, in great condition for $8, and they were a brand known for quality and comfort.  Which reminded me that GOD DELIGHTS IN DELIGHTING US EVEN WHEN IT COMES TO SHOES.

When we had a steady paycheck rolling in, there was an unthinking comfort to life that created excessive living by thoughtless living. I didn't need to pray for specific things because we always worked it out. I didn't delight over free razors and thrifty shoe finds and found bracelets.  Well, not like this anyway. Not in a way where every answer and blessing feels like an everything.  I didn't need to journal in my "God is faithful" notebook, because we had us.  We had us. Living this way, I am trying to remember in every circumstance... God has us.  He has you too.  Don't doubt it.  I don't know where you're at with life's circumstances today, but if you're afraid or in doubt, start with some small living and see what grows from there. 

If it takes living small to sip the joy from that cup, then I'm all in and so thankful for this rescue. Seeking wholeheartedly...

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

So full.

Hi friends,
How is everyone's summer going?  Ours has been a crazy blur and school already starts in a few short weeks so we're busy wrapping things up and enjoying every little scrap we can!  Joe started driver's ed classes and I think keeping track of his busy schedule alone, is killing my brain cells!  But...I wouldn't have it any other way... this teenage mom-gig is the best.  (Well as long as it's not one of those hormone driven days. ha!)  That said, we've already squeezed so much goodness into the month of July I feel like we've gotten our money's worth of summer. 

Last weekend was filled with a ferry trip with Adrain's sisters to extended family, and once again I was reminded what a beautiful place the Pacific NW is.  On the way there, we made a little pit-stop for lunch to Adrain's university, the University of Puget Sound.  I think my son made his college decision after seeing the music building, the dorms and the gorgeous campus... not to mention the radio station where his daddy worked as a D.J.  His eyes were huge with the music possibilities.  Ava was thrilled with the library. 

 While on the grounds, I snapped this shot and loved it so much, I've made it available as a print in my shop.  (Click here to purchase.)

 As parents we had a Friday night where both kiddos went to the movies with friends and we were all alone with nothing better to do than pack a picnic and back the truck up to the bay where we could overlook the Pacific and San Juan archipelago. 

For dessert I made these- a jar filled with lemon yogurt, topped with cantaloupe balls and salted pistachios.  The combo is amazing.  And healthy.  Mmm!
Our picnic consisted of sauteed shrimp, a watermelon cucumber and feta salad and an amazing cucumber, radish and avocado gazpacho from here.  (I'm a huge gazpacho fan.)  
 On Sunday we hiked 7 miles up a mountain and along the ridge top, and I'm still sore.  It was a hike we did back in 2010 and if you've been reading my blog a while you might remember this post from it.
(I had to giggle when I saw my boys standing looking at the view... I remembered this photo (above) from 2010 and they were in about the exact same spot.  Little 10 year old Joe (JJ back then).  Where did my baby go?)
 We were surrounded on all sides, by mountains.  It's a gorgeous hike, no doubt.
  This was our lunch view.  Meh... it's okay.
(I  had to post this one for old time's sake too... my (then) little eight year old Ava, picking wildflowers when we stopped for lunch up there. Those little pig tails...)

You would think that seeing all of that magnificent beauty all weekend would have assured me of my place in the universe and how God has it all in His mighty hand.  Sadly, I seem to need constant reassurance in that department.  I was awakened at 3am a few nights ago, feeling the overwhelming panic in our circumstances in life with Adrain's new job, being parents of teens, some relationships I was convinced I was ruining, some big decisions I'm trying to make, to name a few.  I had woken from a horrible dream and the hot summer night was stifling.  I got up and went to the window for a breath of fresh air.  As I lifted the curtain and peeked out into the darkness, I felt a cooling breeze and looked up.  The sky was crystal clear and there were so many more stars out than I normally notice.  I stood at my window taking in the calm and silence and I felt like God whispered to my heart, "I made all of that. Don't you know by now that if I am able to make and manage all that you see and all that you don't see... that I can surely manage all that's in your heart tonight?"  

What a precious reminder.  I took it to heart and each time I begin to chew over the things that trouble me, I remember that clear sky and His gentle reminder.  I wander so easily.  I keep thinking of the song by Kari Jobe, "You are for me."  Sometimes we have to say the truths we know over and over to ourselves... she said that she wrote this song during a season where that was true for her.  I'll close with some of her words, and I hope they speak to you. 

So faithful
So constant
So loving and so true
So powerful in all You do
You fill me
You see me
You know my every move
You love for me to sing to You
I know that You are for me
I know that You are for me
I know that You will never
Forsake me in my weaknesses
I know that You have come now
Even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who You are

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Everybody's gotta little dirt road in em.

Hi sweet things.  I haven't meant to neglect you!  Just summer... you know how it gets!  Joe had his first job all month, and Ava's babysitting and then drivers ed began and I'm doing my best to keep up with all these schedules! 

I just wanted to peek in and chat for a moment with some little Sasha updates. Today was a little rough on me but I did get a chance to snap a few lovely phone photos from the back of my mama's MOVING car, while my crazy brother (the cop) was driving like a speed-chased maniac on the country roads! (Yeah I just called him out for speeding.  We have this talk about once a year, he and I.) (If I had emoticons here, I'd add the winky face tongue sticking out and the laughing crying one for good measure so he knew I wasn't angry.  Because seriously what in the world did we do before emoticons to show our actual emotions... Oh yeah... we actually TALKED on the phone so people could HEAR the inflection of our voices.  Well whatever.)

Still.  From a MOVING car, through a backseat window, on a phone camera.  Just saying. Well played, Samsung Galaxy S7. You rock my photography world.  (And I asked my country raised man what it's like to drive a tractor and he said it's awesome.  This just looked so amazing as we sped by...)
 My dream barn.  Someday I want to own this and host weddings and events.  I mean could you even?

My shop: I am still so up in the air about keeping it open long-term, versus pop up shops... and yada, yada, yada so for right now, it's staying open until the end of the calendar year and I've reduced all my print prices to $15, plus added back in my holiday and fall prints and am letting it just sit for whoever wants to purchase.  I am running a Christmas in July free shipping code "SUMMER" if you want to take advantage of that until July 25. You can click here to shop and thank you for your business.  As always, I appreciate you more than you can ever know. 

Blog comments: I'm so sorry... the spamming situation was out of control for a while... Often waking up to over 100 spammy comments to delete and block.  I felt like I couldn't stop them so I just closed them all down until I figure out a better way to reduce them.  However, your emails have cheered and blessed me so thank you for the sweetness.  I know you're out there reading... just hang tight til I get this figured out!

Which leads me to this...

BIG blog changes on my horizon!  I'm soon to be changing over things to a new name, a new site and a new chapter!  I've already changed my public Instagram account to @Seekingwholeheartedly.  Which is going to most likely become my new blog moniker, after the verse Jeremiah 29:13. I'll be sure to give lots more info and reasons/explanations as I get closer to that changeover... I'm excited to see where this new venture takes me and those of you signed up with feedburner should switch over automatically but I'm not very techy so I'm not even sure what that means.  I won't be closing this site down right away so it can be referred to and such, but I also won't be publishing here once I've got things moved to the new spot! Stay tuned... I'm getting excited.

Summer: Ava and I are almost done watching Gilmore girls, I've been reading the Merlon Murders series on Amazon Kindle Unlimited and we are watching Lost as a family.  Our weekends are wild for the following month and I plan to pop in with more photos soon... also we did a front yard overhaul of flowers and I hope to share those changes soon. 

My husband's job is going really well and God is blessing & providing for our needs, though I'm struggling with not taking personally, an odd lack of support from places I figured would be first in line.  It's hard to explain and hard to say because I don't want anyone to feel called out or finger pointed at... yet... I need to keep the right and not hurt attitude.  Which can be a challenge.  We've gotten great support from most so it's not an issue... it's just a matter of changing expectations and trusting God to fill gaps and not taking things to heart.  Amazing that I didn't anticipate that but good lessons through it, so maybe I'll write a post on what living on faith has been teaching me when and IF I ever learn anything about that. Ha! 

We plan to climb a mountain soon, because I told my man tonight... I need mountaintop therapy.  Some of you get that.  I feel like God speaks so near to my ear when I'm up there...

I feel like I could chat about so much more but I wanted to keep this short so I could chat more later.  Love to you all... and thank you for doing this journey, cheering us on, praying for us and supporting us through it. 
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